Monday, September 29, 2014

M-Cubed for 9.29.2014

M-Cubed (Monday Morning Musings) for September Twenty-Ninth Two Thousand Fourteen...a random smattering of thoughts that end up here on Monday morning.

- Hi again, friends. I haven't written much since my last M-Cubed on August 18th. So much has gone by that would easily fill several chapters of my upcoming autobiography. By "upcoming," I mean just a thought and not for real. Today, I thought I'd just skim the surface a bit and catch up.

RIP LTjg Steve Byus
- I don't mean to hit you with a somber note or notes up front but best to start here instead of end here. However, if nothing else, I've been reminded as of late of how precious every breath is and how our ticket can get punched at any time and without any warning. I lost a friend in Afghanistan to a suicide bomber a few weeks ago. He was almost a carbon copy of me...about the same age, married, two young children, a Navy supply corps officer. He had just celebrated his wedding anniversary the day before his death by the Taliban. RIP, will never be forgotten. Also, the pastor's wife from our last church passed away suddenly in her sleep. She was an amazing woman and will be deeply missed by many. Here is her tribute and obituary. The photo contained is actually a photo I took of their family during a cold amateur photo shoot at their home. There are also countless reminders in the news of tragic deaths that were not planned for. I wrote the following post on Facebook in reflection of this: "In the past several months, I have known people who were simply walking to their car at work and been struck down and killed...another 40+ years married couple where they went to bed as normally but she never woke...another man who had fought drug addiction and collapsed on the job and never rose again...then a friend..a fellow dad, husband, and Navy Supply Corps officer who made his third trip to Afghanistan just last month with plans to be home by Thanksgiving...the Taliban killed him via suicide bomber that shook two blocks in every direction..and today his community is pouring out the love in red, white and blue in amazing ways...and how about Robin Williams? A spotlight on a sickness that is all too common all around us. I think about the clothes hanging in the closets never to be worn again...the kids never to feel the embrace of their father again...the empty side of the bed...the empty chair at the dinner table...and I imagine if that heartbeat ended was mine. Had I hugged my kids enough or the last time I said goodbye? Did I kiss my bride goodbye...or goodnight? How will I be remembered? What will be my legacy? Did I love selflessly or did I lead a life for myself alone? Who will walk my girls down the aisle? Some say "Life is short, play hard." I say "Life can end in a hard and live intentionally." No hearse will ever be pulling a U-Haul to the entered this world with nothing and as such you will leave it. Live intentionally NOW and for those around you. Believe it or not, the pursuit of serving others vs. yourself reaps far more happYness than any amount of possessions and self-service ever will. So kiss him/her/them goodnight tonight and every time you walk out the door...and enter it. You nor anyone else knows what the next moment holds."

- A few days back, I rolled right on past Day 100 in my running streak. The last time I wrote I hit day 60. In those 40 days I got my 31st ultra marathon finish and one of my fastest at the Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic 50K (race report here) and just two days ago ran another Akron Half Marathon with my wife. It was a day more about spending time with her, encouraging her, and crossing the finish line hand-in-hand vs. racing. Literally...we crossed the line in Canal Park holding hands in the air. It was her 2nd fastest half marathon out of her 15 finishes and another awesome race day put on by the organizers. Such a top notch event! Other than that, not much else to report. Not many photos, either, as so many of my runs are pre-dawn with us losing more and more daylight with each passing day. I did, however, run at sunrise yesterday and grabbed this sunrise photo over the pond at my local park. Gorgeous!

- Happy National Coffee Day!!! Didn't know, did you? Now you do! I already enjoyed my morning Lavazza espresso with maple syrup but surely, a stop by Bent Tree Coffee Roasters in Kent is on tap for my morning drive.

- I may have to write up a post all its own on this but two weeks ago, my bride and I escaped to southwest NY for a two-day mini-vacation. To sum it up in a few words, we began the trip at Peek-n-Peak Ski Resort where we spent 3+ hours in the woods on an aerial adventure course. Harnessed in, we tested our high-up balance and zip-lined/climbed/crawled between tree platforms. We ended up in Lakewood, NY in a 10,000 square foot castle-like bed-n-breakfast where we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast and the Southern Tier Brewing Company a short 4 miles away. A totally off-the-hook fantastic weekend and one we'll have to replicate again in the future (minus the aerial course...per my wife!).

- Are you an Apple junkie? I guess I kinda am. I got my iPhone 6 on release day and am loving it so far. I took the advice I heard from a morning-show personality on 95.5 FM The Fish and used to trade in my old iPhone 5. It was a super easy transaction and already got paid $165 for it. We're also fans of turning our old devices into iPods for our kids but they're still using an old iPhone 4 and 4S so no need this time around. If you're also upgrading, definitely check out Gazelle. They'll even ship you the box at no charge to return your device. It's truly a seamless process.

A lot of the KM100 in Wisconsin
- Running Forecast: I keep tossing around ideas for 2015. For 2014, though, besides continuing my streak and blowing my annual mileage out of the water by a LOT, I won't be racing much. I just registered for the Berlin Amish Country Half Marathon on the last Saturday of November which is probably the hardest half marathon I've ever seen. Insane repetitive miles through the heart of beautiful Amish country...even a block of cheese as a finishers' award! A month prior...actually less than 4 weeks from now will be my second longest race of the year, the Run with Scissors Double Marathon on October 26th. All on trails, it'll be my replacement for a previously planned 50 miler in northern Maryland I had planned on doing in November. Other than those races, not much else! For 2015, I'm still thinking heavily on a return to the 100 miler in a few different ways. Kettle Moraine in June is at the top of my list but first a trip to the Bull Run Run 50 miler in April. I'm also considering my first 24 hour race at the Northcoast 24 Hour race in Cleveland in September. Basically, I'd turn into a hamster on a wheel on a flat 0.9 mile loop for 24 hours adjacent to Lake Erie, with the goal of hitting 100 miles. So for 2015, that's just a few thoughts...of course, it'll all begin in under 96 hours past New Year's at the Frozen Sasquatch 50K in WV.

- Yesterday, I read this blog post. It was penned by a blogger who asked her husband to post it after her death. She was 36 and diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer. Wow. It's an amazing post and so powerful and spot on. I strongly encourage you to read it and then follow the link at the bottom for her husband's response and tribute back to her. "Rest in peace, Charley!"

- I almost forgot. I am running a 5K trail race to help raise money for children in El Salvador. You can run or walk inside this beautiful park on October 11th for a great cause, too. Here's the page to check out and maybe even consider joining me on the trails that day.

- Any chance you may know someone or a company that would consider sponsoring a local marathon that provides free entry to veterans? $5000 is needed to help offset the cost of providing this benefit at this marathon. I can provide the full details and contact information of the race director. Simply shoot me an e-mail and I'll connect you. It's not some small, tiny race, either. It's a major event with huge name recognition across the country. Please consider or pass on this info to someone who may be able/interested. Thanks!

- To close, a dose of encouragement for you in the quote below. Let it soak in! Have a great week, everyone!

"Everything we do is a choice—every action, every thought, every feeling. We choose every day whether to feel apathetic or passionate, lazy or inspired, and the easy choice is often not the one that is best for us. Denial is easy. Inaction is easy. Selfishness, excuses, and indifference are easy. Honesty, positivity, and action, on the other hand, take bravery."

-Ben Davis, Do Life: The Creator of "My 120-Pound Journey" Shows How to Run Better, Go Farther, and Find Happiness

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Race Report: 2014 YUT-C 50K

There are a few "old school" ultra marathons left in the area and this is assuredly one of them. Dubbed the YUT-C 50K, it stands for the Youngstown Ultra Trail Classic 50K (and 25K, too). YUT-C is the main event for NEO Trail Club and often serves as a gathering of the club members and lots of newbies this time every September. This year was no different but was also the 10th anniversary of the event. Three runners finished YUT-C yesterday for 10th time and all wore the #10. "Well done, Dave Peterman, Ron Ross, and TJ Hawk! LEGACY runners!"

In my own personal opinion, the course at YUT-C is one of the most technical, rocky, rooty AND beautiful in all of northeast Ohio. Pick your season and it never disappoints. From the fall colors coming up to the twice-the-size-of-humans icicles near the Mill in the winter, it's always beautiful. The YUT-C course circumnavigates 3 different lakes in their entirety multiple times and within those or dividing them are manmade waterfalls from the dams. In between, the stream twists and turns, is full of light rapids and wildlife, and is simply always beautiful to look at. The best way to understand the course and trails at Mill Creek Park is to imagine a figure 8. Starting from the bottom of the 8, runners begin at the Old Log Cabin. Following the 8 clockwise as if writing the 8, runners pass the Covered Bridge at the center of the 8 and the first aid station. They continue on the 8 around the top right which takes them around Lake Newport. They do this loop (top of the 8) twice before finishing up the 8 by heading back to the Old Log Cabin. At this point, the 25K runners are finished. The 50K runners continue on and do the lower/fat part of the 8 twice more before finishing at the Cabin. Smooth trail under pines, running atop pointy rocks, climbing the infamous Monkey Hills (since our knuckles nearly drag in the dirt due to the angle of the climbs), running along a boardwalk path en route to the Covered Bridge and even a little bit of asphalt on the east side of Lake Newport, this course has it all.
Lake Newport during the road section
I hadn't raced since the Highlands Sky 40 Miler back on Father's Day weekend and on purpose. I had one or two others to do but never registered. Instead, I just laid low and enjoyed daily running. Totally needed that refresher! I've been streaking since June 19th and this was Day 87 of no days off. My monthly average, as well, for 2014 is also way ahead of any other year...but I feel as strong as ever. Entering the race yesterday, I had no real plan but nutrition. I mimicked everything I've done the past few races by drinking nothing but Hammer Nutrition's Heed (when available), an Endurolyte Extreme once per hour and a Hammer Gel once per hour. I did have a few Pringles during the race and a few potatoes but that's about it. This not only fuels me with only what I truly need but makes my aid station stops 30sec to 1min...always affording me the chance to pass several runners and be efficient about my stop. As for the pace, I decided simply to go with it. I know I should start slow and maintain to the end. I sorta kinda DEFINITELY DID NOT do that yesterday! BUT, I had a blast for every step and regret none of it.

Unlike many races, I didn't chat much and spent most of the race by myself and in silence. That was totally ok but I did take any opportunity presented to meet new runners or catch up with ones I hadn't seen in far too long. Back to that pace: I knew I was in over my head when I passed a few people I shouldn't. I knew that I'd eventually see them again but that was ok. I was running strong, breathing very easily (often with mouth closed...that's a good gut check for me), and nothing was difficult. I finished up the 25K back at the Old Log Cabin and there it was...confirmation: "2hrs, 32min" read the race clock. NO WAY I'm a 5hr 50K runner...especially on this course and with two more lower laps to run. Still, I was doing well and hadn't slowed...yet. I refilled my bottle, grabbed some baby mandarin oranges (chock full of potassium to ward off future cramping) and got started on the next 25K. About halfway to the Covered Bridge, I got passed by those mentioned expected. I shouted some one-way encouragement and was pleased to see them doing well. So if I was able to maintain the pace, another loop would yield me 3:48 or so back at the Old Log Cabin. As expected, I rolled into a nice comfy pace and got back there at I slowed by 16min on that lap. Should I be able to maintain that pace, I'd have myself a 5:36 finish and a course PR.

The last loop was pretty uneventful and I just cruised along and chatted with a few friends and even made a few friends, too. Spurts came and went and I took them as they presented themselves. Within the last mile, a fellow 50K'er, Roger Walker, passed me. I was right with him in the early miles but hadn't seen him in quite awhile.  I stayed with him and learned today was going to be a new 50K PR for him and he was feeling great. (inset photo here is us in the early courtesy of Jeff Musick.) We ran to the finish together and finished 15th and 16th overall in 5:40:52. So yea...if you look at the paragraph above, I "almost" ran an even split that last loop but lost 4 minutes. Too much chatting at the Covered Bridge Aid Station, I'd say! :)

Overall, I am very happy with my result. The 5:40 finish was a 15min PR on the YUT-C course and easily one of my faster 22 50K finishes. Most YUT-C finishes have me about an hour slower. For the whole field of finishers, the results show that 76 of 89 starters finished the 50K. That's an 85.4% finishing rate. I am listed as the 16th finisher. Not too shabby! :)

Post race, some veggie lasagna, pizza, a birthday cake for the race director "Slim" and plenty of friends to catch up with. At YUT-C, some folks just pack up and get on with their day yet others will just linger to watch other ultra runners finish and/or chat it up with fellow runners and NEO Trail Club members. I really appreciated the time I got to just chill out and hang out. As swag for the race, we got one of the best tech tees I've ever had and designed by none other than Slim's wife, Beth. Excellent design! (the print is the first image at the top of this post) At the finish, all finishers received the YUT-C oval sticker as well as a one-of-a-kind unique finisher's award...a green, aluminum bottle open with YUT-C printed on it. Sweet! There's no NEO Trail folk love great craft brew!

Jim "Slim" Harris (race director), me, and Kim "Kimba" Love-Ottobre at the finish.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Musick
Overall takeaway: I continue to love YUT-C and hold it high in my arsenal of must-do races and one that holds true to what ultra running and trail running is all about: camaraderie, giving back to the parks we run in, and taking care of the runners. The volunteers were top notch (and provided the necessary kick down the trail as needed), aid station food was perfect, the course was marked better than any other year I've run it, and the trail...well, it's everything plus some. Is it easy? Not at all. No one ever said it was! It is rewarding, though. There is not a section that really challenges you where you don't get rewarded soon thereafter. It's just how the trail takes a little from you then gives you more back in spades. Just you/me, the trail, and the journey towards the finish line.

A few random photos from the trail below:

Lanterman's Mill

Monkey Hills!

Yinzer Covered Bridge

Closing in on the Covered Bridge after finishing the Monkey Hills